I look forward to following your series on the “Business of Doing Good”. Building a bridge between wealth and those who need support is an essential part of any well-functioning community—it’s much more than a “nice to have”, it is an essential lifeline. As Lord Mayor of the City of London, I am using my role to encourage a greater climate of philanthropy in the UK, and make this city a global hub of philanthropic activity, in which each and every one of us has a role to play. Equally in India there are those who are also developing innovative ways to improve the lives of those most in need. Philanthropy must become a vocation of the many, not just the few. Of course, the super-rich and those with spare cash should and could give more, but we must show that it isn’t just for those with bundles of money.
The much-awaited cabinet reshuffle announced on 19 January turned out to be an uninspired and uninspiring exercise that has only served to reinforce—rather than end—the sense of confusion and drift gripping the Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in its second term in power.
The reshuffle, which was effected after several rounds of meetings between the two leaders over the last several weeks, was expected to send a clear signal that the government was determined to set its house in order and refurbish its severely tarnished image.
With corruption scandals, internal squabbling between key ministers and rampant non-performance making a mockery of governance in recent months, the Prime Minister—with the backing of the UPA chairperson—had an ideal opportunity to use the first reshuffle in his second term to get rid of “deadwood”, punish those who had failed to deliver and bring in new talent.
But instead of seizing the opportunity before facing a difficult budget session, the Manmohan-Sonia duo seem to have squandered it by opting for a timid tinkering of portfolios when what was required was a bold and imaginative recasting of the government.
Given Gandhi’s chronic dithering and risk-averse persona, there was little hope of a sweeping change that would involve the crucial quartet—home, finance, external affairs and defence—even though all four could do with a new man on top.
But no one expected that risk aversion had reached such debilitating proportions that not a single minister would be dropped.
The editorial “Unfreedom in India” (Mint, 14 January) paints a realistic picture of the Indian economy. Amid rosy projections given by news channels, snob groups and day dreamers of the country on growth, serious concerns such as inflation are often ignored.
India, I strongly believe, is a state run by political parties and to a wide extent, police and drab NGOs. It is part police state where high toll rates restrict your access to different parts of the country and taxes hinder growth. The most absurd example of the latter is the education tax as the name allows the govt to loot in daylight with the onlookers not even giving a cursory glance to the proceedings. The reason? Welfare of their children, in spite of the large amount garnered by this tax, is far from what is desirable.
Try to start a business in any part of the country and you may have to provide for the police, political parties, “influential persons” (read goons) and local government officials. The list is almost endless.
Your editorial “A time for leadership” (Mint, 21 January) asked the question “Can leadership changes spur reforms?” Prima facie the answer is yes. However, the primary condition for this objective is that there should be an intent to reform. That intent is missing in the present government.
YOUR TURN TO TALK
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